states and the District of Columbia ran state lotteries, and twenty-seven states allowed casinos.Gamblers legally wagered over $586 billion in 1996, earning states, American Indian tribes, andcasino operators nearly $48 billion. Few doubt that these numbers will continue to increase, atleast for the foreseeable future. And with gambling now available on the internet, it will reachmore people than ever.
Thinking Together about Gambling
The decade since the American Lutheran Church statement "Gambling and the Public Good" hasseen rapid change in the place of gambling in our society. More forms of gambling are availablein more communities. Gambling interests wield significant political clout, and governmentsdepend on the revenue gambling generates. In addition, popular acceptance of gambling hasincreased dramatically. Not so long ago, most people regarded gambling as immoral; now, mostregard gambling as an acceptable form of recreation. These changes have not come withoutcosts, however, and opponents of legalized gambling warn of even greater consequences if thesetrends are not reversed. In light of the expanding scope and popular acceptance of gambling,Christians cannot avoid questions about their own participation in and attitudes toward gambling.
Is gambling an inherently sinful activity?
May Christians work in the gambling industry?
How should Christians exercise their political citizenship in matters relating to gambling?
How should Christian communities respond to gambling
No one should doubt that Christians will give different answers to these questions. Unlikeadultery, which Holy Scripture clearly forbids, the Bible does not speak directly to gambling.Christian analysis and discussion of gambling will be guided by the Bible, the Church's historyand tradition, and the gift of human reason; and yet faithful Christians can disagree about theconclusions we draw from these guides. But the possibility of difference should not keep us fromhaving a serious conversation about gambling. Indeed, with the accelerating pace of gambling'sspread, one of the most significant -- and perhaps even distinctive -- things that the Christiancommunity can do is to pause for reflection and discussion.As recognized in the 1991 ELCA Social Statement, "The Church in Society: A LutheranPerspective," part of a congregation's role is to be a "community of moral deliberation."
Christians fulfill their vocation diversely and are rich in the variety of gifts of the Spirit.Therefore, they often disagree passionately on the kind of responses they make to social questions. United with Christ and all believers in baptism, Christians welcome and celebratetheir diversity. Because they share common convictions of faith, they are free, indeed obligated,to deliberate together on the challenges they face in the world.
This study is designed to provoke and guide discussion of gambling. It is divided into sixsegments, each of which can serve as the basis for a one hour class. The first part providesintroductory information about gambling and its growth in the United States. The second offers a